Health care is going to be a hot mess come the new year. Unfortunately, women, transgender folks, people of color and rural communities are going to be the first to feel the pinch of many impending changes. And the potential “solutions” from Republicans at both a state and national level have not been promising.
Republicans in Congress are antsy to gut the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) — putting at least 1 million Georgians at risk of losing their health care. Georgia’s very own anti-ACA Tom Price is slated to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Some populations will feel these changes sooner than others, and Republicans in Georgia’s legislature have offered very few solutions so far.
Thanks to the ACA so many people — including veterans, folks with pre-existing conditions, and young people — were able to afford health insurance for the first time, or the first time in a long time. Even before considering all the reversals in health care gains that are expected under a Donald Trump presidency, there are still too many barriers to folks accessing health, as in overall wellness.
These barriers includes issues like food deserts (meaning healthy food is inaccessible in too many communities); lack of culturally-competent health care providers for LGBTQ folks, immigrants and refugees, and other marginalized communities; poor access to mental health care; and inadequate support for those managing chronic or lifetime health conditions, like HIV, diabetes, or hemophilia.
The gains that have come about under President Obama have been positive first steps. And it’s unfortunate that many health advocates are going to be fighting simply to maintain funding and support for critical programs, rather than advancing even greater policy changes to improve everyone’s access to health.
It’s even more unfortunate that some of the benefits of the ACA — like no co-pay birth control — are going to be some of the easiest areas to cut for Trump, even without Congress overturning Obamacare.
Back in the summer of 2012, the Affordable Care Act mandated that insurance plans cover all contraceptives — from birth control pills to IUDs and implants — at no cost to the consumer.
And it turns out this could be one of the easier parts of the Affordable Care Act for Donald Trump to repeal. He doesn’t even need to send anything through Congress. He just needs to ask his Department of Health and Human Services to redefine what preventive health for women means.
With Tom Price at the helm of the DHHS, that’s looking like a real easy opportunity to end important health benefits for women. While Congress passes laws, it’s up to administrative bodies to understand what these laws mean in practice. Changing definitions, priorities, staffing are all easy changes that can happen on an administrative level without Congressional action. These changes can happen with little fanfare and no oversight, and quickly lead to radically different access to health care for women and other vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty about the future of the ACA has quashed any hopes of a discussion about Medicaid expansion in the upcoming legislative session. The Republican solutions to keeping health facilities open and health care accessible so far have not been promising.
A new tax credit for donations to rural hospitals has just gone into effect in Georgia, and 49 hospitals are eligible to receive donations under the program. It’s too be determined if that’s actually an effective strategy for preventing even more rural hospitals from closing.
The other health care “solution” that got pushed last session, and will be going into effect sometime in 2017, is a $2 million grant program for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) across the state. Many pregnant folks, particularly in rural Georgia, have no access to OB/GYNs. These pregnancy centers provide free pregnancy tests, and sometimes free sonograms, for anyone who is also willing to inadvertently sign up for prayer sessions and anti-abortion diatribes. Medical staff may or may not actually be on hand, as CPCs are entirely unregulated.
While state leaders take a wait and see approach to any talk of expanding or changing health care policy, many Georgians will be left wondering what their healthcare options — if any — will be in the next few years.
I guess the lesson for all of us is don’t get sick and don’t get pregnant, and you’ll be just fine.